Handwriting analysts have concluded that Rep. Catherine Miranda’s signature was forged on documents she submitted to the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, and a “vast majority” of her campaign contributor signatures do not match signatures on file.
Documents obtained by the Arizona Capitol Times also show that the handwriting analysts, William Flynn and Kathleen Annunziata Nicolaides of Affiliated Forensic Laboratory, tried to determine if Miranda’s husband, former Rep. Ben Miranda, signed her name. They couldn’t say conclusively whether he did, nor could they exclude him.
The Capitol Times obtained the report through a public records request of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission.
Catherine Miranda’s adult stepdaughter, Maritza Miranda Saenz, was the notary public who vouched for Catherine Miranda’s signature, a questionable action since notaries are supposed to be impartial and prohibited from notarizing documents for relatives by marriage or adoption. She works in Ben Miranda’s law office.
Still, Catherine Miranda’s attorney said that based on the circumstances of the case, there’s no evidence she committed a crime.
“If that’s what they got, they’ve got no case,” said the attorney, Tom Ryan.
Ryan contends Arizona law allows for someone to sign another person’s signature so long as the person adopts it as his or her own. He said the crime of forgery also requires intent to defraud, so if everything on the documents is true, then there is no crime.
Ryan also said Catherine Miranda has nothing to worry about if it is true the signatures of the two Phoenix women are forged because she wasn’t the collector. Miranda had a host of volunteers collecting signatures, so it was probably one of them who is the forger, Ryan said.
Amy Rezzonico, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, declined to comment on the investigation.
Catherine Miranda was effectively re-elected Aug. 28 in the Legislative District 27 Democratic primary. She and Rep. Ruben Gallego have a Republican challenger, Daniel Coleman, but the district is a Democratic stronghold.
The analysts compared two documents containing her questionable signatures with several of her signatures on file with the Secretary of State with the two documents containing her questionable signatures. The analysts also compared some signatures known to be those of Ben Miranda’s with the signature of his wife on the Clean Elections documents.
“In the opinion of the undersigned examiners, the maker of the known Catherine Miranda signatures did not execute the questioned ‘Catherine Miranda’ signatures appearing on the Nomination Paper Affidavit of Qualifications or the Financial Disclosure Statement,” the analysts wrote in their report.
The analysts’ report was sent Sept. 13 to the Attorney General’s criminal division for investigation with a slew of Miranda’s invalid Clean Elections contributor slips, which included slips for a Phoenix mother and daughter who said their names were forged and they never contributed to Miranda’s campaign.
Miranda drew the attention of the Secretary of State when 48 of the 251 nominating signatures her campaign gathered were invalid. Thirty seven of the signatures were scratched because they didn’t match the signatures of the voters on file.
The Secretary of State and Clean Elections hired Nicolaides to examine the voter signatures on Aug. 10.
“In summary, it is our opinion that the vast majority of the alleged contributors’ signatures do not match those of the corresponding registered voters,” Nicolaides wrote.
She wrote that she observed “characteristics common to groups of the questioned and unquestioned signatures.”
Elections Director Amy Chan wrote in a Sept. 13 letter to Assistant Attorney General Andrew Pacheco, Criminal Division Chief, that while the Secretary of State was reviewing the Clean Elections contributor signatures, “it came to our attention” that Miranda’s signature on her nomination affidavit and financial disclosure didn’t appear to match other examples of her handwriting. The paperwork was submitted by Ben Miranda on May 30.
Chan then asked the handwriting analysts to look at Catherine Miranda’s signatures.
Ben Miranda is also under investigation by the State Bar of Arizona in connection with questions about his signature on nomination petitions for his campaign for the District 5 seat of the Maricopa County Community College District governing board.
Miranda’s opponent, Carnella Hardin, has alleged that he signed petitions stating he collected certain signatures that someone else collected.
Hardin alleges in her complaint that six voters were shown Miranda’s photo and they say he wasn’t the one who came to their door and collected their signatures.
Rick DeBruhl, spokesman for the State Bar of Arizona, said he couldn’t comment on the investigation as it was pending.